Away from the crowd

Wednesday January 5 2011

Its developers call it ‘a dynamic, mixed-use environment that will be home to 62,000 residents who will live, work and play within this community.’ Once complete, it is expected to host 23,000 visitors daily. Photo/FILE

Its developers call it ‘a dynamic, mixed-use environment that will be home to 62,000 residents who will live, work and play within this community.’ Once complete, it is expected to host 23,000 visitors daily. Photo/FILE 

By CATHERINE NDIOO ndiiocatherine

Ruaka is one Nairobi suburb that is seeing not only rapid growth, but also inclusive developments.

The dream of owning a home is what keeps the real estate industry booming, and Nairobi’s real estate market has proven to be lucrative.

Now, a growing number of investors are aggressively developing projects in the suburbs that would sure capture the interest of home buyers, especially first-timers. This shift to the suburbs is being driven by the middle-income segment, the main attraction being the cost benefit.

Ruaka, a new housing estate in the ridges of Runda, is one good example of a fast-growing suburb promising to make the best pieces of real estate available for those who aim to own their own homes.

Situated in Kiambu County, just a few minutes’ drive from the up-market Gigiri, Westlands and Parklands, it is also not far from the new-look Thika Road.

“Ruaka’s accessibility and environment are among its top attractions,” says George Wambugu, the chairman of County Developers Ltd, a real estate development company that recently launched the Runda View Apartments.

At least four roads from Nairobi’s city centre connect to the neighbourhood – Waiyaki Way, Kabete, Peponi, Limuru and Kiambu roads – lessening the likelihood of encountering traffic jam to the bare minimum.

The Northern by-pass, which cuts through the area, will also add to its value once complete; allowing residents to travel to Thika, Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, Ruiru and Limuru, among other diverse places in the city, conveniently and without the need to get into the city’s traffic jams.

With the culture of owning homes gaining popularity, suburban properties are selling briskly, and more banks are now offering mortgages at competitive interest rates.

“We are seeing people come out of the bondage of paying rent and transferring the same amounts to payment of mortgage loans as they live in their own homes,” says Mr Wambugu.

County Developers is a consortium of investors with an eye on suburbia. But as more developers dash for the pie, their projects seem to have a different angle than just stand-alone flats.

The approach here is a homely, self-contained environment. Such is the concept adopted by other developers like Tatu City, another imposing project in the Kiambu County, touted to be the largest and fanciest property undertaking ever in the country.

Its developers call it ‘a dynamic, mixed-use environment that will be home to 62,000 residents who will live, work and play within this community.’ Once complete, it is expected to host 23,000 visitors daily.

The Runda View Apartments project, on the other hand, is located a kilometre past Ruaka Shopping Centre, and embraces the concept of high quality but affordable apartment housing within the reach of middle-income executives.

They are ultra-modern, self-contained apartments featuring a swimming pool, a fully equipped gym, CCTV cameras, children play area, plug-in Internet access, automated gates and security.

The project, comprising 88 units of two- and three-bedroom luxury apartments, will be sold in three phases starting this month.
The developers expect to attract middle- to upper-middle income clients currently living or working around areas such as Westlands, Parklands, Museum Hill, Limuru Road, Thika Road and Gigiri, with an offer of affordable high quality housing, complete with the same facilities they enjoy in up-market neighbourhoods.

The growing attraction of this suburban area is driven by the temptation of less congestion, less traffic and the up-country feel. The Runda suburbs have recently been invaded by institutional investors who have secured large tracts of land for construction of massive ultra-modern development projects.

Centum Ltd, a leading investment firm listed on the Nairobi Stock Exchange, recently acquired a 100-acre piece of land on which it is developing a multi–use master plan for the development of a residential, office and shopping complex.

The Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development has also recently acquired a large tract of land up to the Ruaka Shopping centre for the development of a multi-use project. These developments, among others, will completely transform the area into an ultra-modern metropolis.

There are also good and affordable schools in the neighbourhood, not to mention easy and quick access to major employment, retail and hospital centres such as UN Gigiri, Parklands, Esso Plaza, Stima Plaza, Village Market, Aga Khan Hospital and Getrude’s Children Hospital, among others.

With inner cities now getting crowded and polluted, the development of satellite communities in the suburbs will keep growing. In these communities lie sub-divisions that keep on attracting buyers who want to have their own piece of real estate away from the city.

And owning a home in the suburbs has its advantages. For one, it is more affordable to live in a suburb than in the inner city. Suburbia also have a clean, friendly environment that the inner city chronically lacks, making them the perfect place to permanently settle and raise a family.

“From our feasibility study, we expect very good demand for the apartments,” says Mr Wambugu, adding that the company will be partnering with banks to provide tailor-make financing for mortgage buyers. Tenancy demand is very high for good quality housing in the Ruaka area, and investors looking for buy-to-let opportunities can enjoy very attractive returns.

Rapidly growing development projects, as well as service providers like banks setting camp, add to the attractiveness of Ruaka to new investors and home buyers. Equity Bank and Co-operative Bank, for instance, recently opened branches here.